I was folding and putting away clothes at the end of the day, as I often do, using the bed as my folding table. Cindy watched from under the covers as she often does. She looked a little out of it, prompting me to use the joke I often do. Holding up one of her bras I ask: “Is this yours or mine?”
Usually she laughs, even on evenings when she appears dazed, but not lately, not this Thursday evening. My voice gets her attention, but the joke appears not to register. Sigh. Another milestone of decline reached.
Jokes not working at times contributes to other problems faced. On Friday I changed five sets of pads, diapers and pants before days end. Nothing got her smiling that day; nothing could get her on a bathroom schedule. On Saturday morning Cindy continued to be in her own foggy world even after breakfast. I got her up for our first “dance” of the day when a particularly poignant moment ensued, the kind of moment one never forgets.
Until recently Cindy usually melted into me during our “dance” hugs, her head leaning and sinking into my chest. Now she tends to hold her head up and away, staring across the room or out the window depending on our angle. As we danced I noted her expression looking particularly vapid.
“You know I’m your true love,” I said, in an attempt to get her focused on me and the present.
“I have to go,” Cindy declared falteringly..
She did not mean the bathroom; we had recently got that out of the way. I don’t know that she meant it was time to move on past this life, but there was that type of vibe. What do you say to that? The moment seemed right for a confession.
“I’ll miss you,” then added softly: “I’ll always love you.”
Cindy cried in response to my words, a stark emotional contrast to her expression moments before, suggesting to me that moving on precisely was on her mind. A heartbreak song was playing, “Tuesday’s Gone” by Lynyrd Skynyrd; you tend to remember all the details of moments like that. Heartbreak songs bring out the sap in me these days, but Cindy’s tears saved me from that. Nothing turns me from sap to stoic quicker than someone else feeling pain. I suspect that’s true for many people.
After our “dance” I brought Cindy into the bedroom for her exercises, where I really turned on the charm. I kept telling her how pretty and beautiful she was, When I seemed to have her focus I joked about how I was making a pass at her. She laughed, all smiles. Wherever she was thinking about going before she was totally in the present now.
I moved her legs back and forth, turning my body with the movement. When I faced her I made funny faces, which worked as easily to make her giggle as the “old” days, a couple weeks ago. Thankfully, in her gaiety she did not notice my tears, which formed whenever I turned away from her, now that I no longer needed to be stoic.
Sunday morning found Cindy doing better; my jokes worked from the start. Then Charissa came for her weekend visit; we all went for a pedicab ride in good cheer. The cheerful Cindy continued on into Monday, Memorial Day, despite the weather that kept us from enjoying the town’s events. No doubt Charissa’s presence helped; no doubt the call from our other daughter Serena in California did as well. Cindy chuckled all the way to bed Monday evening. As I folded the clothes I once again used the bra joke, her smile and laughter were immediate this time. Everything was back to normal, well, as normal as they were a couple weeks ago.
Happy ending? Not with Alzheimer’s. On Tuesday morning Cindy’s disposition was much like Friday and Saturday morning. Plus now I am haunted by Cindy’s concern:
“I have to go.”
Who knows what she really meant, who knows when she will feel that again, but I find myself in a very conflicted state. I’ve been a problem solver as a caregiver, thinking up ways to maintain Cindy’s quality of life. I like solving problems, but I anticipate very few problems left for me to solve now, only the problem of what to feel as Cindy approaches her time to move on.
Certainly, I want her to move on whenever she wants. When she is done with this life’s journey who am I to delay or begrudge her the next one. I wish her lasting peace and contentment.
Truth be told, when Cindy is ready to move on, I will be as well. I always have endeavored to make a difference in the quality of life of others and to pursue outdoor adventure travel, as passionate about one purpose as the other. I am still young and well enough to do both in good measure.
Telepathically communicating my feelings to Cindy would go something like this: “Cindy, please go whenever you feel the time has come for you, do not worry about me, I will be fine. But I will miss you … and I’ll always love you. Always.”